It’s Friday. High-spirited young men with a gift for sponteneous song have been sent by Thames Water to excavate the pavements outside our house. Meanwhile, no amount of coffee, medication or indeed George Osborne-induced indignation seems likely to liberate me from the constraints of a cold that is, as you may soon have cause to observe, acting as noticeably upon my ability to tap out words in re-cog-nis-able En-glish as it is on my sinuses, lymph nodes and generalised will to remain upright. So, well, Palladio can wait. For today, this is will have to do.
The laziest bit of public art commissioning in living memory. Having complained about it when it seemed only likely to happen, the defects of this project are no more venial on account of their sheer predictability. Of course the availability of sponsorship money from News International should surprise no one, as One and Other is, ultimately — the hallowed all-old rhetoric notwithstanding (says the artist: ‘My project is about trying to democratise this space of privilege, idealisation and control’, although if he hadn’t said it, everyone would have assumed he had anyway) — little more than a machine for generating outrage — and where there’s outrage, there’s publicity, right? Personally, I’d rather have spent the money on a pension for some ex-RBS hate-figure, if only because I truly don’t believe that there’s a banker on earth who’s as cynical as our Mr Gormley.
A good decision. Well, clearly there was something a bit manipulative in the fact that it coincides with this, which may or may not be a good decision — I’ll leave that for people who know more about it all than I do. But these are lean times, as we’re learning, and so we’ll take our moments of admiration for the Obama administration where we can find them.
Most of the human race, commentariat included, for treating this whole nonsense with the contempt it so lavishly deserves. Given the state of the world at present, who on earth could possibly be ‘scared’ by the sight of a mildly disabled television presenter? As this not exactly one of Britain’s more televisually literate households, my four year old son shares my absolute ignorance regarding CBeebies, its staffage and relative scariness. He’s watched his fair share of BBC News 24, though. So although he’s occasionally had cause to wonder how it is that houses in Gaza get ‘broken’, why children in refugee camps ‘don’t wear very good clothes’, or why it is that people make bombs — not the easiest question to answer, incidentally, half way though improvising a risotto in a cat-garnished kitchen — I can’t say he’s ever shown the faintest curiosity about e.g. Gary O’Donoghue’s minor facial asymmetries, let alone the rather dashing Frank Gardner‘s jaunty — and, doubtless, intensely annoying to Islamist terrorists everywhere, which surely is half the point — outings with callipers and walking frame. And for once, it seems, most people are as robustly sensible on this point as a normal, happy four year old.
My new all-time favourite book, Isole abbandonate della laguna venziana (The abandoned islands of the Venetian lagoon) by Giorgio and Maurizio Crovato, reprinted by the San Marco Press in 2008. As the title implies, this is an elegant if colocynthic account of miscellaneously neglected plague islands, ex-Austrian munition works and sandbanks preserving little more of their early medieval religious origins than the dialect-mangled ruins of a half-forgotten name, all recounted in sober scholarly text and illustrated some of the most atmospheric, evocative black-and-white photographs imaginable — and I write that as someone with a very good book of Edwin Smith photographs currently on my desk. Absolute, utter enchantment — although, for the non-Whigs amongst us, simultaneously a reminder that just as La Serenissima once enjoyed a more natural, organic and productive relationship with her surrounding environment than she does at present, there is absolutely no reason on earth that she shouldn’t, eventually, come to do so again.
The softening of mental resolution induced by this cold, which I now notice has compelled me to produce three ‘blesses’ to one ‘blast’. Shocking, eh? Frankly, at the moment I’m too sleepy and stupid to mind much about anything. History does, however, suggest that our normal, bad-tempered and easily-irritable service will be back in due course ….